Safety of journalists must be ensured, UN official says after Mexican attack

27 September 2010
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today deplore the recent attack that killed one photographer and seriously wounded another in Ciudad Juarez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, stressing that media professionals must be allowed to work in safety.

“Journalists and media professionals have already paid too high a price in this region,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, 21, was killed and Carlos Manuel Sanchez Colunga, 18, was seriously wounded after being fired on by unidentified gunmen in the 16 September attack, which occurred outside the Rio Grande shopping mall in Ciudad Juarez.

Ms. Bokova said the open letter calling for an end to the violence published on the front page of El Diario, the newspaper for which the two photographers were interning, illustrates the extent of the problem.

“It is vital that journalists be allowed to work safely, without fearing for their lives, so that Mexican society may enjoy the basic right of freedom of expression,” she stated.

According to the non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders, the newspaper had received no threats and the two victims were not involved in investigative reporting. “The operation was typical of drug cartel score settling,” according to a UNESCO news release.

Reporters Without Borders notes that 68 media workers have been killed since 2008 in Mexico and 11 declared missing since 2003.

UNESCO is currently participating in a research project on the effects of stress on the mental health of Spanish-speaking journalists working in conflict zones, which is run by the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Canada.

The project, which focuses on Mexico because of the severe risks journalists there face, evaluates psychological damage resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and depression. Results are expected to be announced at the end of the year.


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